Raising children has never been easy, even under ideal circumstances. When your circumstances are less than ideal, it becomes even more challenging. All I can say is that the best thing to do is to look to Jesus for your help and strength. We can consider God the ultimate parent – God invented parenthood and will help us through it.
Our earthly mothers were flawed, and we are flawed. That’s why we need to pray early and often for the strength and wisdom we need to get through the day and do the right thing. Remember what it says in Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. NIV
Jesus was on this earth for over 30 years, and for most of that time lived the life of an ordinary person, so he understands what we are up against. We don’t often think about the fact that Jesus lived in a single-parent household. Some time between when Jesus was 12 and when he was 30, Joseph died, leaving Mary a widow and Jesus as the man of the house.
While Mary had the unspeakable privilege of being with Jesus for 30 years, she also experienced heartache. Of course the worst heartache was suffered by Mary at the cross, where she watched her firstborn son suffer and die. We also face trials and heartache, and I believe the best thing to do is bring them to Jesus – to lay them at the foot of the cross. Jesus died for us, so he is not going to ignore us when we cry out to him.
The Bible is very clear that we are to train our children properly, even though they will often resist. Studies have shown that children not only need boundaries, but actually want them (although often it doesn’t seem like it). Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise, but it is a pretty safe bet. It says:
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. NRSV
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us to teach our children about God’s ways:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)
Today it is especially critical that parents (and grandparents) pass on to their children the right values. This is necessary because of all the terrible messages our children are receiving though TV, movies, music, games, and cartoons. Years ago, the values we taught our kids used to be reinforced, at least to some extent, in the culture at large. Children used to be shielded from images and messages that were considered inappropriate for them. No longer. Today, anything goes, even during the so called “family hour” on TV.
There are forces in the culture that are working hard to shape the next generation in ways that most parents would object to. Because of that, we and our children are given messages that are contrary to the Judeo-Christian ethic and traditional morals. Today the only place where your values are being reinforced is in Sunday school or CCD. The culture tells us that traditional values are repressive and obsolete, and we need to enter the brave new world of freedom from these oppressive moral codes.
I am not telling you about this spiritual warfare to discourage you, but rather to let you know that much about parenting has a spiritual component to it. I also want to assure you that you are not alone in this battle. Paul explained spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:12, and then went on to tell us that we have available to us the full armor of God so we can fight this battle:
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. NRSV
We can be encouraged by what the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:4b (NRSV):
For the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
We have God on our side – all we have to do is seek his strength, wisdom, and guidance. Jesus assured us in John 16:33 (NIV):
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We can and will win this spiritual battle by godly parenting, prayer, and discipline. And as adults let us honor our own parents by giving them godly grandchildren as a legacy.